The Philosophy of Form: A Genre Study of Svetlana Alexievich’s Second-hand Time and its Implications for History, Literature and Time

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The Philosophy of Form: A Genre Study of Svetlana Alexievich’s Second-hand Time and its Implications for History, Literature and Time

Type: Master thesis
Title: The Philosophy of Form: A Genre Study of Svetlana Alexievich’s Second-hand Time and its Implications for History, Literature and Time
Author: Roeters, Sjors
Issue Date: 2018-03-15
Abstract: For Svetlana Alexievich, both conventional history writing and art have proven inadequate to capture, or approximate to capture, reality. She turns to the voices of the ordinary people, writing a work founded on oral stories. In some sense, with Second-hand Time Alexievich also seems to take the storytelling tradition up again, albeit in a different, more reflective manner now, to agitate against the rise of coherent textual narratives representing reality with a sense of closure. Through the way Alexievich has written a portrait of the history of the Soviet Union and its fall, she has expressed the belief that the real events of history are not the ones conventional historiography deals with. Only the ‘subjective’ experiences of big history by its participants, their little histories, can capture some kind of true history. Not only has Alexievich with Second-hand Time appropriated claims on truths and literature back to the common people, but also their grasp on their history and its writing. Alexievich transcends McCord’s ‘ideology of form’ and in the form of Second-hand Time implicitly expresses a philosophy on history, literature, language, human truths and, above all, their interconnectedness. In doing so she empowers the people by taking away the boundaries of language in which they are supposedly confined, ascribing them agency to speak in a language in between, or even outside of existing discourses on which they supposedly rely to produce them. Through recording the spoken language of literature as such, Alexievich is writing back history, and with it autonomy. By the simultaneous elimination of the hierarchy of artists/non- artists she has democratized the production of literature, hence giving agency to the common people on multiple fronts. Lastly, Alexievich expresses a different idea of what literature is and makes clear that writing literature is more than the realization of literary imagination; it is the touching upon of human truths by any voice. When universal human truths uttered in a new language spontaneously appear in the conversational side of human life, fundamentally defined by its ‘momentariness’, a sparkle of literature occurs. In Alexievich’s conception of literature, eternity and the eternal here and now coincide.
Supervisor: Horsman, Yasco
Faculty: Faculty of Humanities
Department: Literary Studies (Master)
Specialisation: Literature in Society: Europe and Beyond
ECTS Credits: 20
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/61923
 

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